The Indiana Pacers were a pleasant surprise of the NBA regular season, earning the 4-seed in the East during the seeding round of the NBA Bubble despite the absence of Domantas Sabonis. That came after they spent half of the season without the services of Victor Oladipo as he rehabbed from a ruptured quad injury, and the former All-Star never really regained his form this season.
Without Sabonis and with Oladipo still not looking like his pre-injury self, the Pacers were swept by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the first round and entered an offseason of serious uncertainty. Their first move was to fire Nate McMillan — after giving him an extension while in the Bubble — and with the coaching search still ongoing, Indiana also has some personnel things to consider. The Sabonis-Myles Turner pairing remains awkward at best, and at some point most expect the Pacers to have to make a decision between the two, with the most likely outcome being Turner dealt and Indiana sticking with Sabonis coming off of an All-Star season.
However, they also seem to have another big move possibly being forced into their hands as Oladipo is reportedly wanting out of Indiana this offseason, as he enters the final year of his contract and will be a free agent in 2021, per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss.
Hayward won’t be opting out of his contract unless he has a long-term extension in place, which will be hard for a 30-year-old with a concerning injury history. Indiana is still home for the Haywards, and with Victor Oladipo looking to move on this offseason, according to sources, and Myles Turner possibly in the same boat, there could be an opportunity for Ainge to move Hayward and the abundance of draft picks in his war chest in a mutually agreeable way. Boston won’t have cap space again with three stars locked up long-term, so moving Hayward or Marcus Smart presents one of the few opportunities to get back a player making starter-caliber money.
It’s not the first rumbling of Oladipo looking to find a new home outside of Indiana, and his contract situation, coupled with health questions, make him far more difficult to move and gauge value on than, say, Paul George was when the Pacers moved him to OKC for Sabonis and Oladipo. What the market is for Oladipo this offseason is a huge unknown for a variety of reasons. One is that he is an expiring contract and the team trading for him would surely need to be a team that wants to sign him long term, but there will be some warranted trepidation about what level Oladipo is at as a player going forward that could limit what Indiana can get back in return.
On top of that, the league is dealing with financial uncertainty and is awaiting negotiations with the NBPA about how to handle salary cap ramifications from the loss of revenue during the pandemic that figures to be an impediment for every potential big move this offseason. In short, there are a number of hurdles to clear to find a trade partner Indiana would want to deal with — they made it pretty clear with the George trade they don’t want to deal stars in conference — who would be able to find common ground with the Pacers on value. Still, it’s certainly something worth monitoring as the NBA Draft approaches in November and free agency begins, as Indiana will surely have plenty of calls to see where the market on their star guard is, but dealing him seems far from certain.